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Boeing has completed work on the first two Block II Super Hornets to undergo a Block III upgrade and service life modification (SLM) and has delivered them back to the US Navy, the company announced on 27 June 2024.

One aircraft was delivered one month ahead of schedule from Boeing’s facilities in St Louis, Missouri, while the other was delivered two months ahead of schedule out of the company’s facilities in San Antonio, Texas.

The upgraded jets have the same capabilities as Block III Super Hornets being delivered from Boeing’s new-build production line.

“Our success in meeting the accelerated timeline is proof our service life modification game plan is working,” Faye Dixon, Boeing SLM director, was quoted as saying in a company pres release. “Thanks to our years of learning on the program and our partnership with the Navy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet remains at the forefront of defense technology with renewed years of service to support the fleet.”

So far 25, Super Hornets have been inducted into the programme from the Operating Period 2023 (OP23) contract and another 12 from the OP24 contract; 17 additional Super Hornets are scheduled to be inducted as part of the OP24 contract.

Boeing stated that, in partnership with the US Navy, it has improved productivity on the SLM programme and is completing the process on Block III aircraft ahead of the 15-month contract requirement. This was made possible by, firstly, establishing a baseline for the condition of Block II F/A-18s received at Boeing and the US Navy’s work to prepare the jets in advance and, secondly, sharing information and best practices across multiple SLM sites to improve efficiency, manage workload distribution and optimise resource allocations.

“Great measures were taken by the Boeing and navy teams to ensure these are the safest and most capable Block III F/A-18s we can give our warfighters,” stated Mark Sears, Boeing Fighters vice president. “These are just the first of many deliveries, with around 15 years of SLM deliveries to go. Our warfighters are counting on us to get this right every time.”

Block III upgrades include a large area display and more powerful computing through Tactical Targeting Network Technology and a Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked open mission systems processor. As well as the Boeing sites in St Louis and San Antonio, the work is also being conducted at the US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego.

Boeing and the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest signed a public-private partnership agreement in March 2024 to expand the work scope at San Diego, where the navy was solely extending the aircraft’s flight hours, to allow the readiness center to now perform the same Block III upgrade work done in St Louis and San Antonio.

“These first deliveries of Block III SLM jets are a major milestone in our continued efforts to ensure capability, reliability, availability and maintainability of the Super Hornet aircraft,” Captain Michael Burks, programme manager for the US Navy’s F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office, was qjuoted as saying by Boeing. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Boeing to deliver this critical warfighting capability to the fleet,” he added.

The first US Navy Super Hornet to receive its Block III upgrade and life extension out of Boeing’s facilities in St Louis takes to the sky to return to the US Navy. (Photo: Boeing)